Major League Baseball (MLB) and Turner Sports Tuesday announced that TBS will air a league championship series for seven years beginning in 2007. TBS gets the National League LCS in 2007, and alternates with Fox each year for the length of the deal.
The deal follows the seven-year agreements announced in July that saw Fox Sports cut back on its postseason package, opting to keep just one of the two league championship series and dropping its coverage of the first round of the playoffs.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that, despite moving one league championship series from broadcast cable, he does not believe that guarantees a drop in ratings.
"I wouldn’t be willing to concede that," he said.
The announcement comes during a post-season in which ratings have been down, though much of the drop should be attributed to one of the two league championship series being a sweep, as well as the presence of smaller-market teams from Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis, as opposed to traditionally bigger draws like the New York Yankees.
"We are disappointed, but let’s wait until the World Series is over and everything," Selig says of the playoff numbers.
Selig also noted there is no time table currently for the long-rumored launch of a MLB-owned and operated cable channel. "It is still under consideration and review," he said.
Under the new arrangement, to begin in 2007, Fox keeps the World Series, one of the two League Championship Series, a Saturday game of the week for 26 weeks and the All-Star Game. Fox will alternate between the American League Championship Series and National League Championship Series each year.
Turner Sports also now picks up coverage of the divisional series for both the American League and National League. It will put the games on TBS, with the ability to use TNT for overflow programming as it does with its NBA coverage.
As part of the deal beginning in 2008, Turner will add a Sunday regular-season game of the week as well as an All-Star Game selection show. This year, Turner also gets rights to any regular-season tie-breaker games that arise if two potential playoff teams finish even in the standings.
TBS won’t start the national Sunday game until 2008 because it still has a contract to air 70 Atlanta Braves games nationally in 2007. TBS will no longer carry Braves games nationally as of 2008, but will air 45 games locally on WTBS.
Fox's current deal, which expires this year, included the entire package of post-season games as well as its regular-season coverage, at the cost of $2.5 billion over the past six years. The network has lost more than $200 million over the course of the deal.